SPRINGFIELD, Mo. (AP) - A Missouri judge has ordered the Department of Natural Resources to delay issuing a wastewater permit for a proposed horse slaughter facility until he gets a chance to hear a lawsuit alleging runoff from the plant could contaminate water and soil.
Rains Natural Meats wants to build the facility near Gallatin in northwest Missouri, but it needs the permit before it can move forward. Three parties who oppose the plant are suing the DNR to block the permit, which would allow Rains to collect wastewater from the facility and apply it to land.
Cole County Judge Daniel Green told the DNR on Monday to hold off until he hears that suit.
Daviess County resident Barbara Sink was one of the three behind the lawsuit. She describes herself in the lawsuit as "passionate about horses" and would be "aggrieved" if the horse slaughter plant were to open.
Missouri horse rescue groups are the other two parties in the suit. All three argue the facility would involve the slaughter of horses treated with a variety of drugs that could be dangerous to human health.
"While the type of permit Rains applied for would allow the discharge of certain substances, such as nitrogen, phosphorus, oil and grease, the permit does not authorize the storage and land application of these equine drugs which are banned for use in humans and other animals," said plaintiffs' attorney Steve Jeffery. "Consequently, DNR lacks legal authority to approve Rains' application."
Rains Natural Meats vice president David Rains called Green's order illegal and said he was fighting to have it overturned.
"It's all done on emotion and not on science," he said. Rains said another hearing in the matter is scheduled for Thursday.
In a petition filed by Jeffery, four horse veterinarians provided information that horses can receive more than 100 different drugs that are not authorized for use in humans, cattle, hogs or poultry. They also said studies show those drugs are contained in the wastewater at horse slaughter facilities.
USDA officials have suggested Rains' company is on the verge of getting a permit from the Food Safety Inspection Service to open the horse slaughter plant. However, Rains said USDA won't give his company the permit until the DNR approves its request to operate a "closed lagoon," where workers would "clean and wash the animals down after they're skinned."
DNR has until Sept. 5 to respond to the lawsuit.